The beauty of springtime is here! It’s the time when flowers bloom, birds build their nests, bugs are out in droves, and you’re sneezing! There are many names for spring allergies including seasonal allergies, hay fever, and allergic rhinitis. But no matter what you call them, spring allergies can put a damper on your outdoor fun. Don’t let allergies keep you from enjoying the warm weather this year! Get the facts about spring allergies and what you can do to manage them.
Spring Allergies vs. Common Cold
Spring allergies share some of the same symptoms as the common cold. Both colds and allergies can cause sneezing and a runny, stuffy nose. But there some major differences in symptoms. Fevers or aches and pains are usually cold symptoms, while itchy eyes are unique to allergies.
The length of time that symptoms persist can also help you tell the difference between a cold and allergies. Colds only last around ten days, but allergy symptoms can last for weeks. Not sure what’s causing your symptoms? Visit your healthcare provider to determine if you’re sick or if allergies are the culprit. Let’s just hope it’s not both!
Causes of Spring Allergies
If you suffer from spring allergies, you may wonder “why me?” Unfortunately, researchers don’t yet know why one person suffers from allergies, while others are fine. We do know that allergies can be genetic. So, now you have a fun fact to bring up at your next family reunion.
Allergy symptoms are the result of being exposed to a certain substance that causes an immune response in the body. In the case of spring allergies, pollen from grass, flowers, and trees act as invaders. These irritants cause the body to make substances called antibodies. Antibodies attack the pollen and lead to an immune response, which results in inflammation of the skin, sinuses, airways, and eyes. Ultimately, this series of events causes those pesky allergy symptoms.
Tips for Spring Allergy Sufferers
If you are one of the millions of people who have to deal with allergies every spring, here are some tips to help you manage your symptoms this season!
Don’t wait to medicate.
If you need to take prescription or over-the-counter medications for your spring allergies, the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology recommends starting the meds two weeks before your symptoms normally begin. This is especially important if you deal with severe symptoms or if you have asthma that is triggered by allergies.
While not everyone needs to take medications to manage their allergies, you should work with your healthcare provider to decide if medications are right for you. In addition to medications, your doctor may also recommend allergy shots to help slowly desensitize your immune system to the allergens. This can minimize severe allergy symptoms to a mild discomfort. Science is awesome!
Track the pollen count.
Do you religiously track the weather in your town? Great! Try to apply this habit to the daily pollen count.
Pollen counts have actually been shown to be gradually increasing, which explains why you may have recently developed spring allergies over the past few years. These counts can give allergy sufferers valuable information about the types of pollen (grass, trees, ragweed, etc.) that are high in your area. Pollen counts can also you tell when it’s time to start taking your allergy medication.
If you have asthma, keep an eye on the air quality forecast along with the pollen count. This will help you to stay on top of your asthma triggers.
Prepare for the outdoors.
Spring allergies are a great excuse for passing off outdoor chores like mowing the lawn and cutting the hedges to someone else. But do you really want to be a hermit on a beautiful spring day?
The pollen count is usually the lowest in the mornings and evenings. Try to restrict your outdoor activities to these times, especially if you have severe allergy symptoms.
When you do step out to mow the lawn or do some gardening, consider wearing a particle mask to help keep pollen from entering your nose and mouth. (Rumor has it that particle masks are going to be the must-have fashion accessory of the season!)
Keep the outside from getting in.
We’ve covered the importance of protecting yourself from pollen while you’re outside, but you also need to keep pollen from getting inside your house. It’s not a welcome guest. One way to keep pollen out is by removing clothes that you’ve worn outdoors as soon as you come inside. You should also shower as soon as possible in order to rinse pollen from your hair and skin. This will keep pollen from transferring to your furniture and floating around your home.
While we all love the smell of fresh laundry, it’s not a good idea to line-dry your laundry outside if you or a member of your household suffers from allergies. Finally, if you have a dog or cat that spends time outdoors, make sure to brush or wash pollen off their coats, so they don’t bring too much of it inside. Your pets might not appreciate the grooming, but your sinuses will thank you!
Spring Allergy Precautions
While the management of allergy symptoms may seem straightforward, there are a few precautions to be aware of when dealing with spring allergies.
Allergies affect asthma.
According to the American Lung Association, allergies can be a trigger for asthma symptoms. While this may sound like a problem that is easily solved by an inhaler, asthma is a very serious condition. An asthma attack can be fatal.
It’s important to be cautious about spring allergies if you also have asthma. But don’t be afraid of going outside! Follow the same tips above to help you manage your asthma symptoms.
The pros and cons of natural remedies.
There are a variety of alternative treatments that some believe can help with spring allergies. There is little research, however, to support many of the herbal products that claim to be beneficial.
Acupuncture is another common remedy for allergies. While there is some evidence to support it, you should check with your healthcare provider before trying any alternative treatments.
Spring allergy symptoms are caused by an immune response in the body and can put a damper on your outdoor activities. The symptoms can range from a moderate annoyance to severe itchy eyes and a runny nose. Those with asthma need to be especially careful. Luckily, there are plenty of strategies to help minimize allergy symptoms this season. Follow the tips above and breathe easy this spring, so you can enjoy the outdoors!
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